NASCAR is racing on Easter and they’re racing on dirt. Why not? It’s also a night race in Bristol. Whether you’re chasing the long shots and hoping for chaos or following the dirt-track favorites, this should be a memorable Sunday night.
As always, trust the spreadsheet but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol, which gets underway Sunday, April 9 at 7 p.m. ET.
This is the third Bristol dirt race. The first race was a mess. The second got better. The third should continue the development of this track. Bristol in the Gen 7 stock car is not pure dirt-track racing. It’s far from it. Dirt-lite would be the best description of the style of racing. It’s dirt enough. Slow Bristol is another apt description. While slow might sound off-putting to the casual fan, slower corner speeds often produces better racing.
All of that being said, we just don’t know. The track is too new. The style of racing is too foreign. The car and the rules package are also too new. Is this a race for the favorites or long shots?
Race Winner — Food City Dirt Race
Kyle Larson +550
The best dirt-track racer has the best car in 2023. What else needs to be said? Outside of the plate races and the road course race, Larson’s car has clocked the best average lap times at every track this season. More importantly, he’s not just the best dirt-track racer in the Cup Series. There’s a solid argument that he is the best dirt-track racer to ever walk the Earth. The only thing that can stop Larson is bad luck, and that haunted him until last week. At Richmond, he kicked the black cat to the curb and won. He’s fast, experienced and has momentum on his side.
Christopher Bell +650
Larson is the better dirt-track racer but Bell isn’t too far behind. The young JGR driver’s dirt-track resume is just as strong. His short-track resume is comparable if not better. Bristol is a dirt track but not a true dirt track. In some ways, the Bristol dirt track races like an old, slow Bristol. It feels like a grass roots race. This is a short-track Saturday night at your local track on Easter Sunday. That’s the kind of race that favors Bell. As the laps wind down and the checkered flag nears, Bell will be one of the few drivers in contention for the win.
Race Winner — Food City Dirt Race
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. +2000
These are pretty long odds for a dirt-track legend and an active dirt-track racer. Not to mention, Stenhouse was the runner-up in the inaugural Bristol Dirt Race in 2021. Some may be skeptical of his equipment, but the disparity between the haves and have-nots is not very large at the Bristol dirt track. Stenhouse has a chance in a green race. In fact, with long green-flag runs, the experienced dirt-track racers may be able to experiment with the grooves and even find speed on the cushion. In a race filled with cautions, Stenhouse only needs track position and to hold his position on restarts at a track where passing isn’t easy.
J.J. Yeley +100,000
This won’t happen, but it’s worth a quick conversation. It’s rare to get odds this long on a NASCAR Cup Series bet. The odds suggest that Yeley has no shot. That’s ludicrous. This is the Bristol Dirt Race. The sample size is small. It’s too small to approach this race with any level of certainty. Even in the small sample size, we’ve seen unexpected drivers exceed expectations. Finally, Yeley is one of the most storied dirt-track racers in history. He and Tony Stewart are the only two drivers to ever achieve the USAC triple crown in a single season (silver crown, sprint car and midget car national champions). Yeley’s dirt-track experience likely won’t make up for his inferior equipment, but at 100K-to-1, it’s worth a conversation and a flyer.
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